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Hitman’s Elusive Targets remain just that as their first appearance is delayed by IO Interactive

More Hitman news from me. Big surprise, right? I’m paying attention. What can I say?

So IO Interactive released their newest Hitman title a little over a week ago… Well, they released the first episode… And a couple of short prologue/training missions… Hang on, let me start again…

Eleven days ago the foundation for IO Interactive’s latest sojourn into all things assassination was laid, and while Agent 47’s most recent hit is by no means perfect – there are plenty of rough edges so far – it appears to be a return to sandbox murder simulator that many fans have been asking for since 2006’s Blood Money.

The one major sticking point in these early days has been the Danish developer’s decision to make it an always online experience. Players must remain connected to the game’s servers at all times if the wish to access pretty much anything – challenges, additional contract. Hell, you can’t even peruse your awarded guns and gadgets without first connecting.

Worse still, if you’re in the middle of an attempt on someone’s life and you are disconnected, you’ll be ejected from the game and taken straight back to the main menu screen. Hopefully these teething problems will be ironed out in the coming weeks.

Being online comes with its advantages though. IO Interactive have already added two new Escalation contracts set in the Paris level – The Holmwood Disturbance and The Mandelbulb Requiem, and today added two more – The Osterman Mosaic and The Gemini Fiasco. These arrive at no additional cost, and with no download overhead. They just appear on the main menu. No update necessary.

These Escalation contracts set you particular hit to carry out, and once accomplished new criteria are added, escalating the difficulty over five levels. The fifth and final level requiring navigation of increased surveillance technology, tight time limits or the use of a particular escape route, in addition to taking out your prescribed target. The new laser tripwires are sure to be unpopular.

Sadly, there has been no sign of the other type of live content promised. Perhaps, given their name, that’s to be expected. Elusive Targets are to be available for a limited period of time, and can only be attempted once, with no opportunity to save. If you fail, that’s it – no do-overs, no retries. In a post on the game’s website, the developer states that they have decided to push their arrival closer to the release of the second episode, Sapienza, in April. No reason given as to why though, so we’re left to speculate. Might they be having some trouble with the new additions?

Whether to make up for the delay or not, there will be new Escalation contracts each week until episode number two comes along, as well as a new set of challenges based around community’s antics involving the Vampire Magician disguise (if you’ve not found it yet, you should really seek it out). This challenge pack will drop at the same time as the game’s next update which is set to fix an assortment of troubles. Here’s hoping we can get our Requiem items back…

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It’s early days for this bold new direction that IO Interactive are taking Agent 47 in, but I remain optimistic for its future. In spite of the obvious problems, this is without question the most fun I’ve had with a Hitman game in a long time, and it’s only a sixth of the total package. If the level of quality and attention to detail on display in this first location is maintained across the remaining five, and they keep the live content coming – along with some significant server stability improvements – I don’t see how it can fail.

Oh, and there’s this to look forward too.

Who do you vote for? I’m honestly not convinced I can make up my mind. Busey may just have the edge.

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